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The Sahel Song is a song of hope in a region in acute crisis

14 October 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes

 The Sahel is marked by the stunning, quiet beauty of its landscape and its rich and varied cultures – but in reality, this region faces one of the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crisis.

In the past year, almost 29 million people in the region were in need of life-saving assistance and protection. This was an increase of more than 5 million people compared with last year. Conflict was the main cause of the increase in needs and displacement in the region. Between 2015 and 2020, the number of violent attacks increased eightfold in the central Sahel and tripled in the Lake Chad Basin.

But the United Nations and a mix of artists from the area are hoping their initiative will bring awareness the crisis in the region.

The initiative – by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and a diverse mix of Sahelian artists – have got together to create a one-of-a-kind, five-minute composition of rich instruments and vocals. The Sahel Song celebrates the hope and culture of a region in acute crisis.

Together, artists Vieux Farka Touré, Oumy Gueye, Amadou & Mariam, Tal National, Songhoy Blues and Bassekou Kouyate celebrate the Sahel’s vibrant musical culture to bring awareness to the immense challenges.

OCHA said in a report released on Tuesday, October 12, that the humanitarian situation in the Sahel was deteriorating quickly and significantly. People’s needs across the region were now at unprecedented levels, and their vulnerabilities were deepening and increasing because of escalating conflict, rising food insecurity, multiplying climate emergencies and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bounena Sidi Mouhamed, the deputy head of OCHA’s regional office for West and Central Africa, said: “Music is the best way to convey messages. Awakening the conscience is of capital importance. This has a strong impact on what is happening in our countries. This song pays tribute to the resilience, generosity, solidarity and strength that Sahelians continue to demonstrate, despite the crisis that surrounds them, as well as to their vibrant music and cultural heritage.”

The Sahel Song was written by Vieux Farka Touré, who also took care of the production.

The lyrics speak directly to young people, who make up the majority of the population of the Sahel.

The song conveys a message of peace, solidarity and hope for a prosperous future in the Sahel, enabling everyone the opportunity to flourish. But to achieve this goal, continued commitment and investment was required.

“The youth must show courage, strength and fight against this crisis. Peace and solidarity are instrumental. It is only by having peace between us that we wil have it tomorrow for our children,” said Vieux Farka Touré, a Malian singer and guitarist.

Amadou and Mariam, a musical husband-and-wife duo from Mali, said: “We wanted to tell people that we must stand up and join hands so that the Sahel can move forward and change things.”

Oumy Gueye (OMG), a young Senegalese singer and rapper, said: “We should refocus on ourselves, our culture and our values to build a more stable Sahel where everyone feels at home.”

“Nothing remains but to make peace between us,” Tal National, considered as Niger’s most popular band, said.

“Let’s join hands to end the war that is tearing out region apart,” said Songhoy Blues, a band comprising four talented, determined, sharp and outward-looking young men from Mali.

About the author

Elvis Mugisha